Prominent chefs across India, and across the world have taken to using some of nature’s best gifts in their dishes—flowers! Of course, flowers have been known to be featured in dishes across India, whether it is the famous gulab jamun, or even banana blossom (vazhaipoo) curry. Flowers have been used in food for ages, and for good reason.

Here are some flowers that can spruce up any dish.

1. Dandelions

It sounds hard to believe, but dandelions are a superfood filled with vitamins and nutrients. Despite their status as a weed, they are highly nutritious as they contain vitamins A, B, C, E, K, folate, iron, calcium potassium, and magnesium. Dandelions are classified as an antioxidant, can reduce your cholesterol, boost your immune system and protect against skin damage.

2. Lavender

Lavender is a woody, floral herb originally grown in parts of northern Africa and the Mediterranean. The violet flowers are very small but plentiful. Lavender is probably best known for its distinctive fragrance, which is acclaimed for its calming effects. The combination of color and aroma make lavender a particularly desirable addition to a variety of foods, including baked goods, infused syrups, liqueurs, teas, dry spice rubs and herb mixtures.

3. Rose Petals

With over 150 species of roses available to purchase, you can find them in any color or size at a local market. Just be careful; roses contain more pesticides than any other flower. Buy locally grown roses or add them to your garden so you can experience their sweet, aromatic flavor without worry. Roses can be eaten cooked, raw, and mixed with other sweet fruits in a salad.

4. Marigolds

Marigolds are typically used as a pest repellant. However, the flowers can also be used in food! Their distinct earthy, yet slightly bitter flavour lends itself to many dishes. The vinegar made out of marigold is also used as a salad dressing, for its distinct flavours and its vibrant colour! It also makes for a wonderful, soothing tea. The petals simply need to be dried and steeped in boiling water for a hot drink.

5. Hibiscus

Hibiscus plants produce large, ornate blossoms that usually grow in tropical and subtropical climates around the world. Hundreds of hibiscus species exist, but the most popular edible variety is known as roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa. Hibiscus flowers can grow as large as 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter and are found in a wide array of colors — including red, white, yellow and various shades of pink. Although sometimes grown for strictly ornamental purposes, hibiscus is also well known for its culinary and medicinal applications. You can eat the flower straight from the plant, but it is usually used for tea, relishes, jam or salads.

6. Nasturtium

Nasturtium is a culinary favorite because of its brightly colored blossoms and unique, savory flavor. Both the leaves and flowers of nasturtium are edible and may be enjoyed cooked or raw. They feature a peppery, slightly spicy flavor profile, although the blossoms themselves are milder than the leaves. The funnel-shaped flowers are typically bright orange, red or yellow. They make a beautiful garnish for cakes, pastries and salads. The leaves are round and resemble small lily pads. They’re tender enough to be used as salad greens or blended into pesto.

7. Pansies

Pansies have small blossoms, measuring about 2–3 inches in diameter. They exist in many colors, but hues of purple, blue and yellow are most common. They have five overlapping petals with a dark area in the center that resembles an ink stain. Typically, pansies have a mild, fresh and lightly floral flavor — although there is some flavor variation depending on the type. Because pansies can have so many color variations, they make an excellent decorative addition to desserts, such as pastries, cakes and cookies. For extra flair, you can candy the petals before adding them to your dish.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile is a floral herb used in cooking and traditional medicine for centuries. Medicinally, chamomile is often consumed to reduce anxiety. The flowers closely resemble daisies, albeit much smaller. They lend a slightly sweet, earthy flavor to the foods they’re cooked with. Most recipes call for heating the flowers in a liquid to extract their flavors and bioactive compounds. The leaves and flowers are usually dried first but can be used fresh.

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